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RUTLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 



Quarterly 



Volume 43 No. 1 

Pico and the Rutland 
Winter Carnival 



2013 




Two young people advertising the Rutland Winter Carnival. 



About the Author 




Nathan Allen is a 2012 graduate of Johnson 
State College and the Rutland correspondent 
for The Mountain Times newspaper out of Kill- 
ington. He also has a culinary arts degree from 
Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI 
and has been a professional chef in the Green 
Mountains for almost ten years. 



Introduction 

This is primarily the story of the Rutland Winter Carnival that took 
place annually from 1951-1960. These carnivals were possible because 
of the neighboring Pico Mountain and the role it played in the develop- 
ment of alpine skiing in America. There are numerous references to the 
history of Pico. This information should help to illuminate this unique 
time in Rutland’s history and the special collaborations between the 
city and Pico. The first rope tow in the country was installed on the site 
of what is now the Suicide Six ski area in Woodstock. Pico opened a few 
years later in 1937 and operated for almost 15 years before the excite- 
ment of this new sport was fully realized in Rutland and the Chamber 
of Commerce decided to act. For more information on Pico’s fascinating 
history, see Pico, Vermont, and the Development of Alpine Skiing in the 
United States by Linda Goodspeed. 



The Quarterly is published by the Rutland Historical Society, 96 Center Street, 
Rutland VT 05701-4023. Co-editors; Jim Davidson and Jacob Sherman. 
Copies are $2 each plus $1 per order. Membership in the Society includes 
a subscription to the Quarterly and the Newsletter. Copyright © 2013 The 
Rutland Historical Society, Inc. ISSN 0748-2493. 



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Pico and the Rutland 
Winter Carnival 

By Nathan Allen 

Early Pico and Alpine Skiing 

By the beginning of the 1940’s, the sport of skiing was fast outgrow- 
ing the limited rope tow. The founders of Pico, Janet and Brad Mead, 
visited European resorts looking for better uphill transportation meth- 
ods. In Switzerland, they encountered a T-Bar and successfully built 
one of their own at Pico in 1941. The new lift allowed Pico to expand and 
1941 saw a record amount of skiers. An estimated 10,000 skiers visited 
Pico near Washington’s Birthday that year. Automobiles were parked 
along Route 4 for two miles. After another busy year, it was clear to the 
Meads that further expansion was going to be necessary. A chairlift was 
now in operation on Mount Mansfield while newcomer Bromley Moun- 
tain in Peru was also showing promise. It looked like skiing in Vermont 
was here to stay. However, on 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked 
Pearl Harbor and the United States had entered World War II. Found- 
er Brad Mead was diagnosed with tuberculosis around this time and 
he died at the age of 37 in an apparent boating accident on Chittenden 
Reservoir on 26 September 1942. Undoubtedly he was weakened from 
his battle with the disease. Brad’s wife Janet was now managing the 
ski area by herself. During this time, Americans were facing unprec- 
edented uncertainty and angst. A luxury like a ski vacation may have 
seemed frivolous to many. Wartime rationing and shortages affected 
food, fuel, manpower and transportation. Many American skiers joined 
the 10*^ Mountain Division and served overseas. Such was the case for 
Karl Acker who was the face of Pico’s ski school and a famous import 
from Switzerland. The American ski industry stagnated during the war 
years and skiing-related businesses started to close across the coun- 
try. Pico managed to stay afloat during these meager years and the 
mountain was rewarded for its struggle by some postwar prosperity. 
A major boost to the American industry in general was the return of 
the 10^^ Mountain Division. These men, estimated at about 50,000 had 
been trained by some of the best in the world and they brought their 
love of skiing back home. Despite a better economic outlook, inflation 
and competition from other mountains hindered Pico at the end of the 
1940s. Little had been done in the way of improvements since the T-Bar 



3 



was installed in 1941. Bromley and Stowe were both expanding and 
Mad River Glen opened in 1948 with an impressive mile-long chairlift. 
It was local supporters who helped Pico stay in business despite poor 
snow years and the struggle to be competitive. The Ski School and, in 
particular, the junior racing program became well known for excellence. 
One of Janet Mead’s own children, Andrea Mead, was a particularly 
promising young athlete. 

The Carnivals 

At the end of 1950 and the beginning of 1951, it may have been that 
the Rutland Chamber of Commerce was longing for the days when 
trains full of skiers arrived regularly and lodging spaces and restau- 
rants were full. Whatever the impetus, it was announced that the Rut- 
land Chamber would be cooperating with other local civic groups as 
well as the Pico ski area to host an annual winter carnival. It was de- 
cided that the carnival should take place during the long weekend of 
Washington’s Birthday. In 1951, it was February 22-24 and the Lions 
Club, the Rotary and the Kiwanis, amongst others, organized a pro- 
gram of events that included multiple days of competitive skiing, a box- 
ing exhibition, ice skating, a hockey game, a professional basketball 
game and a ball at the Meadowbrook Roller Rink to wrap everything 
up and present awards. What was perhaps the most sought after award 
during the carnivals had nothing to do with skiing or any other sport. 
It was the selection of the carnival queen that really piqued the public’s 
interest. Thousands of people voted for high school aged girls that had 
lengthy biographies posted in the Rutland Herald, The first year saw 
over 200 revelers at the celebration dance while Frances Callahan was 
crowned Queen. After the first carnival drew to a close, Chamber of 
Commerce President Samuel Stowell and carnival chairman A.B. Por- 
ter called the project a ‘'reasonable success.” This was despite the fact 
that warm weather plagued the events in Rutland. The snow sculpture 
competition and the hockey game had to be cancelled but more than a 
foot of fresh snow at Pico meant that parking lots were filled to capacity 
all weekend. 

The carnival in 1952 was perfectly timed. Andrea Mead, daughter 
of Pico founders Janet and Brad, had quietly become the best skier in 
America during the last few years. In 1948, Andrea was the youngest 
member of the United States Olympic Team at age 15. It wasn’t until 
4 years later, in Oslo, Norway, that Andrea made her presence felt on 
the world stage. She won two Olympic gold medals that year, the first 
in the women’s Giant Slalom. It was the first appearance of that dis- 



4 



cipline in the Olympics. Andrea also won the slalom by a practically 
unheard of margin of 2 seconds. Andrea’s claiming of two Olympic gold 
medals in the same games are still unmatched in US skiing history and 
it was a huge deal back home in Vermont. The fervor coincided with 
the Second Annual Rutland/Pico Carnival and Mother Nature certainly 
cooperated. Near blizzard conditions and two feet of snow a week ahead 




Creating an ice sculpture of Andrea Mead, prominent Rutland skier. 



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RUTLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 



of time created what the Rutland Herald called ‘‘perfect conditions” as 
an estimated 2000 people watched the ski races at Pico, The schedule of 
events included a basketball tournament with 8 teams, a hockey game 
between Norwich and Champlain College and a cherry pie baking con- 
test sponsored by CVPS. Of course there were the very well-attended 
ski races that saw competitors from every conceivable age and ability. 
Racers as young as six years old shared the day with ski clubs from 
near and far Over 60 Olympic veterans as well as college athletes from 
all over New England were in attendance. 1952 saw the Vermont State 
Championships of skiing decided at Pico and it is notable that Rutland 
citizen Anne Jones won the women's field. Interest in the coronation 
ball heightened and an article in the Rutland Herald remarked that 
ballots had been received from multiple states. The ball was again held 
at Meadowbrook Roller Rink and Leila Goodrich was crowned Queen. 
The carnival organizers were lucky enough to have cold temperatures 
for a twenty act show by the Junctioneers Skating Club of Claremont, 
NH. If there was any doubt about the viability of an annual carnival in 
Rutland, the successes of 1952 must have helped put those fears to rest. 

1953 saw a new carnival chairman replace Mr. Porter. It was Henry 
C arris who oversaw a carnival that added a torchlight parade snaking 
its way down the slopes of Pico. Fireworks were also an exciting addi- 
tion as well as night skiing which rounded out the evening festivities. 
The admission for that night was 75 cents for adults and 50 cents for 
students. 1953 saw the organizers really developing the coronation ball. 
The ball was held at The Armory this year which allowed for greater 
attendance and entertainment of a grander scale. Two orchestras were 
enjoyed this year one of which consisted of 16 instruments. The other 
was a Canadian Square Dancing outfit. Rutland expanded its offer- 
ings further with its biggest ice show yet. 1953 saw ballots for carnival 
queen stream in from as far away as Texas. June Herrick was crowned 
as queen. 

The weather conspired against the carnival of 1954. Rain and mild 
temperatures forced cancellation of only two events which was consid- 
ered fortuitous considering the conditions. Warm temperatures made 
the ice show and hockey impossible. Despite the dire forecast, the Her- 
ald ran an article with the headline “Skiers Mob State Resorts”. It was 
called the biggest winter weekend in the state’s history. The Vermont 
Transit Company reported that extra busses had to be put on routes to 
deal with the influx of visitors. Four thousand people were estimated to 
have visited Pico that Saturday and hundreds braved the downpour of 



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rain to witness the torchlight parade. Friday evening saw the “Jumping 
Jack” Race. A jack-jumper is a single ski with a seat on it. Jack jumping 
would remain a popular part of the winter festival for years to come. 



Left to right: Dr. Carleton Stickney, Robert Bloomer and “Kelly” Coffin 
display their “Jack Jumpers”. 

The coronation ball, held at The Armory, had Garry Stevens, WRGB 
television star and his “TV Showcase” Orchestra as well as a square 
dancing band. Mary Lou Reedy was queen in 1954. It is also reported 
that 1954 was the year that Perry Merrill, again, started to take a keen 
interest in developing Killington Peak. Merrill is considered the father 
of Vermont’s State Parks as well as the alpine skiing development in 
those parks. Perry Merrill was also the Vermont state land lease officer 
and forester. As early as the 1940s he had talked about developing Kil- 
lington. A famous partnership with founder Preston Smith was soon 
formed but it would still be several years before the Killington resort 
properly developed and opened. It was the beginning of a remarkable 
period of growth. In the 1954-1955 season there were 78 ski areas in 
the country. Just ten years later there would be 662. It was also in 



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RUTLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 





1954 that ownership of Pico changed hands. Longtime ski instructor 
Karl Acker purchased the area from founder Janet Mead and instituted 
some much needed changes and improvements. Karl and his wife June 
would run Pico and as they were very short on cash, Karl did much of 
the work singlehandedly. 

Rutland is known for a love of parades so it should come as no surprise 
that in 1955 a winter carnival parade was added to the schedule. Lo- 
cal civic groups, military veterans, carnival queen hopefuls and others 
marched through the streets of Rutland amongst throngs of onlookers. 



The Herald reported that it was “favored by the best possible weather 
- perfect throughout. Carnival time brought out crowds of fun seekers 
that shattered attendance figures at about every event in the program”. 
1955 had jack-jumping contests, sugar on snow, fireworks, sled races, 
and an ever growing selection of races at Pico that was now drawing 
international competitors as well as locals. Garry Stevens was again a 
part of the Coronation Ball that saw Joan Looker crowned as Queen. 



In 1955 a Winter Carnival parade was added to the program. 



RUTLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 






Robert Wagner, new movie star, poses with Joan Looker, the new 
1955 Rutland Winter Carnival queen. 



The success of the winter carnival got Joan Looker a spot on the 
Dave Garroway national TV show. 



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RUTLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY RUTLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 





1955 also saw the introduction of a “fun figure” named the Hambas- 
sador of Slobbovia. 

Under the leadership of Chairman Alfred Beauchamp, the carnival 
was extended to four days in 1956. It was Thursday night that was the 
welcome party including the jack jumping, torchlight parade and moon- 
light skiing among other events at Pico. On Friday there was a square 
dance jamboree at the Community House in Rutland and Saturday was 
the giant carnival parade and the coronation ball. Mary Lou Davis was 
crowned queen of the 1956 Winter Carnival. The parade was held in a 
blinding snowstorm in 1956 but that didn’t seem to deter any onlookers 
and record crowds were reported. The ball again featured Garry Ste- 
vens who was becoming a popular feature of the yearly event. 



For a number of years Garry Stevejis provided a 16-piece orchestra 
from WRGB-TV in New York State. 

All ski racing was done on Sunday at Pico. The “fun figure” this year 
was called Mopey and he was a favorite with the children, as he gave 
out candy and inspired silliness. 

A few days before the 1957 carnival, the newspaper declared that the 



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RUTLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 




“town has been sold out for several days”. The article went on to inter- 
view the members of the dozens of clubs that were staying in various 
hotels and lodges all over the area. Skiers from Philadelphia, New York 
City, New Jersey and Connecticut travelled to Pico to race and enjoy 
the festivities in Rutland as well. The ice show this year had nearly 200 
participants and Friday night had what was billed as “Rutland’s first 
jazz concert” at the Rutland Armory. The normal Cherry Pie baking 
contest, sled races, and parade were all very popular this year and the 
weather cooperated very well. Gene Rayburn, a comedian and star of 
NBC shows like the Steve Allen Show, was supposed to be on hand dur- 
ing the four day 1957 carnival. His name was advertised heavily in all 
available media outlets. But Mr. Rayburn broke his leg skiing in Stowe 
the day before his scheduled appearances in Rutland. He spent the du- 
ration of the carnival in a Morrisville hospital. The queen in 1957 was 
Bette Mae Ladabouche. 




Queen Bette Mae Ladabouche and her court in 1957 exemplify the 
grandeur of the Coronation Ball of the Winter Carnival. 



RUTLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 




1958 saw a decreased amount of media coverage of the winter carni- 
val. A blizzard on Saturday forced the cancellation of the Ice Show as 
the final event of the carnival. It was noted in the newspaper that the 
Jazz concert on Friday was popular and attracted about 1,000 people. 
As always, the Coronation Ball with Garry Stevens was well attended. 
2,000 people were reported to have packed the Rutland Armory in 1958 
to see Judy Peake become queen. Earlier in the 1958 season, Killington 
opened and enjoyed a rather large early season snowfall. A storm near 
Thanksgiving dumped two to three feet of snow. Four surface lifts were 
in operation on Snowdon Peak for the inaugural season and the area 
developed well above industry standards in the years to come. Another 
surface lift was installed in 1959 and terrain was available on Killing- 
ton Peak itself. In 1960, a double chairlift that ran over 6000 feet was 
opened. Karl Acker, after having owned Pico for only four years suffered 
a massive heart attack this year and passed away. Now, for the second 
time in Picons short history, the mountain was being run by a young 
widow. 

The 1959 Carnival started off on the Thursday before Lincoln’s Birth- 
day with a sugar on snow party at Pico. The local newspaper comment- 
ed that turnout was not as high as it had been in years past. On Friday 
night, the focus shifted to the Rutland Fairgrounds where there was an 
ice show. Little Sun Valley Skating Club performed a revue and Sharon 
Strauss performed songs. She was billed as a “favorite from the 1958 
Rutland Fair”. A torchlight baton exhibition was performed by “Miss 
Drum Majorette of Vermont”, Rhoda WooddelL Fireworks were on dis- 
play that Friday and it was all presented by Bill Hickok from WPTR in 
Albany. A square dance was at the Meadowbrook Roller Rink as well. 
Rutland was the focus of Saturday’s events as well with the parade and 
the coronation ball. Burnham Stearns, chairman of the carnival was 
on hand to award Sandra Jean Miglorie the crown in 1959. She was 
awarded a week-long vacation to the Virgin Islands for two, an exciting 
addition to the vibrant popularity contest. Snow arrived just in time to 
make the skiing competition at Pico a real success. 

The three day affair of 1960 changed the lineup considerably. More 
skiing was added at the Rutland Country Club, especially for the junior 
competitors. The sugar on snow party was moved to Rutland as well. 
The popular opening day party at Pico was replaced by a Talent Contest 
at the Rutland Armory and it was reported that 2,000 people attended. 
Even the enduringly popular Coronation Ball was moved to the MSJ 
auditorium. 



12 



In years past, the skiing competitions at Pico were the only scheduled 
events for the day. However, in 1960, the program of events included 
an ice show and a party at Rotary Field while the skiing was going on 
at Pico. 




Skating was frequently a part of the Winter Carnival program hut 
often a victim of the weather. 

In a Rutland Herald article that summarized the 1960 carnival, Su- 
zanne Coleman was congratulated as Queen. Some of the exuberance 
and excitement was missing from the article though. Some events were 
cancelled due to warm weather preceding the event, but Sunday saw 
bitter temperatures and a “howling blizzard”. The worst combination 
when it comes to New England weather. “Cooperation for the 1960 car- 
nival was excellent” said Emerson Peake, the chairman. Vermont Gov- 
ernor Robert Stafford was on hand to attend the Coronation Ball this 
year as well. 

1960 would be the last Rutland Pico Winter Carnival. No official rea- 
son was discovered for the discontinuation but some guesses could be 
made about the reasons. The ski industry in Vermont was expanding 



13 



Winter Carnival 





Leila Goodrich 
1952 



Jane Herrick 
1953 




Frances Callahan 
1951 





Photos: 

RUTLAND 

HISTORICAL 

SOCIETY 



Bette Mae Ladahouche 



Judith Peake 



1957 



1958 



at a furious pace and Pico wasn’t keeping up. Mount Snow was becom- 
ing phenomenally successful with many of the amenities expected from 
a modern ski area. Killington was also expanding exponentially. Local 
Chambers of Commerce as well as the Vermont State officials began to 
look closely at how they were marketing this new and profitable pas- 
time. Regions were promoted, or the state of Vermont as a whole. A car- 



14 





Queens 1951 - 1960 






Mary Lou Reedy 
1954 



Joan Looker 
1955 



Mary Lou Davis 
1956 





Sandra Miglorie 
1959 



Suzanne Coleman 
1960 



nival like the Rutland Pico affair was too localized. A look into minutes 
from Chamber of Commerce meetings also revealed that the carnival 
was losing money. Such an endeavor relies heavily on volunteers who 
may have retired or moved away. The carnival had perhaps run its 
course and it no longer fit into the big business of ski area development. 



15 








“The Iceman Cometh”- His Excellency, the Hambassador from Lower 
Slobbovia as played by Art Ross of Rutland.